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Contesting A Judgment: Part 1 Some Information About Judgments

The U.S. Constitution guarantees that a citizen will receive due process under the law, which means that every person has their day in court, i.e., an opportunity to be heard. However, for the most part, once this day has passed, you don't get a second opportunity or chance. Once a creditor has filed a lawsuit for an alleged unpaid debt and successfully obtained a judgment against you, your options thereafter are limited since your day in court has come and gone. This two-part article will describe these limited options, but first address some background information.

Often, creditors, such as credit card issuers, file lawsuits for unpaid debts that are uncontested, which result in an easy default judgment in their favor. A creditor who successfully obtains a judgment may attempt to collect on it in a few ways under Florida law.

One way is to convert the judgment to a judgment lien against the judgment debtor's property, both real and personal, which may last for as long as two decades. In Florida, no judgment issued by any court may be a lien upon real or personal property within the state after the expiration of 20 years from the date of the entry of such judgment.

Under Fla. Stat. §55.10, the recipient of a judgment may record a certified copy of the judgment at the county recorder's office that will become a lien on real property owned by the judgment debtor in any Florida county. Such a lien lasts for ten (10) years and may be renewed for one more ten-year period.

It also may acquire a judgment lien against personal property owned by a judgment debtor. To do so, the judgment creditor files a judgment lien certificate with the Florida Department of State. In this situation, Florida law dictates that a judgment lien lapses and becomes invalid five (5) years after the date of filing the judgment lien certificate.

Under Fla. Stat §55.204, at any time within six (6) months before or six (6) months after the scheduled lapse of a judgment lien, a judgment creditor may acquire a second judgment lien by filing a new judgment lien certificate. The effective date of the second judgment lien is the date and time on which the judgment lien certificate is filed. The second judgment lien is a new judgment lien and not a continuation of the original judgment lien.

Thus, a second judgment lien will have a new priority date and the judgment creditor will become a junior creditor to any senior creditors. The second judgment lien permanently lapses and becomes invalid five (5) years after its filing date. Florida law specifically mentions that additional liens based on the original judgment or any judgment based on the original judgment may not be acquired.

Liens that secure the payment of a child support or tax obligations lapse twenty (20) years after the date of the original filing of the document required to establish a lien. Liens securing the payment of unemployment tax obligations lapse ten (10) years after the date of the original filing of the notice of lien. Note that a second lien based on this original filing may not be obtained.

So is there anything you can do about a judgment? Unfortunately, your day in court has passed and so has the opportunity to contest the debt. The judgment represents valid proof of the obligation. Besides a judgment lien, execution of the judgment and collection of the debt may include garnishment of wages and bank accounts. Thus, your options are quite limited in dealing with an old judgment. Stay tuned for the second part of the article as we explore these options.

The attorneys at Loan Lawyers can help consumers determine if their rights have been violated and whether or not a debt collector is complying with federal and state law. For a no-risk, no-cost consultation, contact one of our South Florida consumer defense attorneys today by calling (888) FIGHT-13 (344-4813).